Last week, from the top(?) of Haystack Mountain, Vermont:

Yesterday, Huguenot Cemetery (during a haunted-house performance that we passed on the way back from the restaurant), New Paltz:

Jury Duty

I got called to jury duty for the first time today! Naturally, I remembered the date but lost my summons. In the process of getting it reprinted I’ve been through 5 different courthouse buildings so far this morning, each with its own bag scanner and metal detector.

Now I’m finally in the jury waiting room, which has wifi, comfy seats, and absolutely nothing else. They say we’re all going to be called in to a case within the next 5-10 minutes, and the administrator(?) has pulled out a large brown metal raffle ticket tumbler. I don’t know what the prize is, but I feel like I might be in The Lottery.

Actually I’ve always admired the jury system, and jury duty always sounded like fun. (Of course, I have the good fortune of a job that pays full wage for days spent on a jury; state law only requires them to pay $40/day.) Maybe they’ll even ask me questions about my resume, opinions, and life history! It’ll be just like on TV, if voir dire were on TV, and also if I owned a TV.

EDIT: Well, it’s over. (I think.)

I was surprised, walking into the courtroom, to recognize one of the officers of the court as a relative! In retrospect maybe I should have been able to figure that out ahead of time.

Anyway, the session opened with the judge expounding upon the civic duty of jury participation. It was immediately clear that this judge takes pride in his sense of humor; every paragraph was infused with subtle levity. When the judge asked if anyone recognized any of the officers of the court, I raised my hand. The judge joked about us, saying

  • “Come on, to have a conflict there must be some reasonable degree of consanguinity. You have what, a great-grandparent in common?”
  • “Do you how many second cousins I have in a five block radius?”
  • “You two do actually kind of look alike.” (This is true.)
  • “Do you like him? Never mind.”
  • “This is kind of funny.”

Anyway, I don’t know if I was really disqualified. All I know is I waited all day, and the guy with the raffle tumbler never called my name, while watching a performance that was like a trailer for a trial, complete with a brace of bulletproof-vested security officers around the dapper-dressed defendant.

The administrator just informed us that we are done, and cannot be called for another six years. Works for me.

EDIT2: Other thoughts

Being on jury duty in the County of New York (a.k.a. Manhattan Island) gives you a fascinating chance to learn something about a random sample of your neighbors. Among the 40 participants who were actually called up to speak, there were

  • The heir to a famous name, the sort of person who manages a social justice investment fund as a hobby (and humblebrags about it in court)
  • An unknown avant-garde artist
  • A partner at a quirky ad/design firm
  • One guy who pre-emptively declared that he did not believe in the death penalty, causing the judge to point out that “There’s no death penalty in the State of New York. Also, not even Texas kills people for [minor felony]. Maybe Georgia.”
  • A ton of people whose close relatives had been convicted of crimes, or were currently in prison, but (when asked) confirmed that they felt they’d received fair treatment by the criminal justice system
  • A few people who work in law enforcement, to one degree or another
  • Five lawyers … all of whom were selected to be on the jury!

The courtroom is not as shiny and brightly lit as a Law and Order set, but the ceilings are enormously high.


I stayed up unreasonably late this week watching Elon Musk’s hour-long presentation on the Interplanetary Transport System, which is basically a proposal to build the biggest rocket in history, slap the biggest spaceship in history on top, and fly it to Mars. (You should probably just watch the special fx sequence unless you really want to know exactly how many meganewtons and kilotons.)

Why not?

I’m not qualified to have much of an opinion about rockets. My most sophisticated aerospace engineering achievement was powered by an Estes D-series engine. However, I do like Musk’s plan. Partly that’s for the stated reason, but I also think it’s better business than it looks. Musk’s Mars-launch rocket is also a minimum-cost first stage booster for conventional satellite payloads, which are much less demanding than a huge interplanetary mission. Making Mars the goal keeps the target high, but if the rocket should prove less efficient in practice than in theory, without enough launch capacity for a mission to Mars, it could still be a profitable proposition. It’s also common for the first plane or rocket to come in over the weight budget; this approach would let SpaceX generate revenue while refining the manufacturing to get it lighter.

It also seems notable that they’ve started working on the booster components, not the ship components, for the same reason.

I don’t think I’m likely to go to Mars, ever, but I wish them luck … mostly because this is the first plan that gives me a good chance of spending a couple of days in LEO on vacation when I retire.

It’s alive!

It’s midnight, so maybe the saga of the blog (bloga?) will have to remain untold, but after dozens of hours invested in conversations with three different ISPs, I’m finally back in a working state. This time on Verizon FiOS, with a fast uplink, so by rights it ought to be faster and better than ever before.


Moved in

The boxes are unpacked. The pots are in the cupboards. The posters are on the walls. The tchotchkes are on the shelves. The server running this blog is cleverly hidden behind the couch, again. (Frankly, it’s astonishing that it still works. It’s long past time for me to admit defeat and rent a VM like everyone else.) The extra linens that don’t fit in the linen closet … never mind.

We live here now.

This weekend’s adventures included visits to half a dozen thrift shops in search of the best antique dresser (found!), and a quick trip to a bike shop to buy a pump, so I could get my bike in working order and ride it down to the new building (and its access-controlled indoor bike room!).

Just in time, too. In a week I’ll be flying to Stockholm for a Baltic vacation. There will be plenty of … honestly I don’t have any stereotypes to invoke. Well-maintained infrastructure and a general lack of nonsense, I guess. And pickled herring. I’m planning to bring a book.


As of yesterday, all my possessions have finally been relocated from the old place to the new place, and some of them are even in reasonable locations.

On my own, I probably would have just hired a moving company to move them all for me, but as my parents were taking back some things I wouldn’t be needing, my mom saw fit to ask every strong-looking guy on the sidewalk if they happened to have a sideline in moving furniture … and one did! I ended up renting a Zipvan and calling him twice, once to move boxes and once for furniture. Between the two of us, we were able to move everything, even the couches. I paid less than a proper moving company would have cost, and he got more than a moving company would pay its workers.

Call it a triumph of the informal economy.

There are still quite a few boxes left to process, mostly mine, but I’m starting to believe that our little layout (planned ahead of time in Inkscape over a to-scale floorplan image) is going to work out quite nicely.


So far, it’s been seventeen years in Connecticut, two at MIT, one in Ye Olde Cambridge, one in Back Bay, six in Central Square, two in Seattle, and two in Hamilton Heights. Now it’s time for someplace new. Next stop: Times Square.

OK, it’s not really Times Square. Maybe it’s Hell’s Kitchen South? Theatre District? Anyway, West Midtown.

I’ve enjoyed my little 350-sqft miniature home, in a neighborhood that’s all churches and barbershops, with nary a Yelp or Zagat rating in sight. (After all, who needs Yelp for the place they grew up? Why would I read reviews of my old hometown diner?)

It’s been fun, when the weather’s nice and the stars align, to bike the 8 or so miles to the office, mostly along the lovely West Side Bikeway (and still way too much through awful city streets). The little home improvement projects, like installing a projector, were good times too. But the big prize for me was always entertaining friends, something I managed a few times a year but not as often as I would have liked.

Whether or not I realize my ambition to do better on that front, my new apartment won’t be a lonely place … because I’ll be sharing it with my girlfriend, for the first time.

Every move so far has marked the start of something new and wonderful, but this one is going to be particularly special.


So, um, I went to a Halsey concert last night. Halsey is … I’m trying to describe her without using the word “brand”. She’s a pop singer, basically, in a bad-girl mode. I’ve heard her compared to Lady Gaga, maybe because she performs in burlesque-esque costume, but her lyrics’ abstract angst remind me a little of Linkin’ Park.

Judging by the crowd in attendance, I am way too old and male to go to a Halsey concert. In general, Halsey is not for people who care about things like acknowledging other members of the band (they were hidden so completely I’m literally not sure how many there were), live music talent (the backing track amounted to lip-sync, typical for pop stars), or audience asides that make sense (at one point she promised vociferously to “protect” everyone in the audience and “keep you safe” for the rest of our lives). Also, if you tend to view peppering one’s lyrics with references to drug use and sex acts as evidence of cynical commercialized titillation, you may not be the target audience.

Nonetheless, it was a heck of a show. Three songs in, Halsey stopped mid-chorus, cursed at some unspecified technical difficulty, and declared a total restart … and they started from the top, doing the first two songs again. At the third song it become clear why, more or less. Partly, the sound mix may have been off. It sounded to me like we were hearing too much of the undistinguished live vocals, and not enough of the processed backing track. But mostly, I think the third video failed to turn on.

Modern pop concerts, at least the sort that play in Madison Square Garden, seem to generally be performed in front of a cinema-size movie screen showing a custom-made video sequence. Halsey’s animation studio did a great job providing an atmospheric backdrop for a stage show that otherwise would have just been her slinking around the stage in lingerie. (Not that I necessarily would have complained.)

What I haven’t seen before, in any concert I can remember, is this level of pyrotechnics. As the finale approached, the show successively revealed batteries of cloud guns, flamethrowers, fog machines, spark sprayers, and eventually confetti cannons. There was something calmly surreal, in the topmost balcony, about seeing a few flakes of confetti drifting lazily upward from the maelstrom in General Admission.

Call it the overview effect.